By Providence Moyo
In celebrating the World Health Day, this Wednesday the World Health Organization (WHO) has called on Member States, partners, Civic society , communities and other stakeholders to intensify working with the body to build a fairer , healthier world.
WHO Regional Director for Africa Dr Matshidiso Moeti , in a statement released ahead of World health day said there is a need to address health inequalities between countries worldwide.
” The Covid 19 pandemic has shone light on inequalities between countries . Amid shortages of essential supplies , African countries have been pushed to the back of the queue in accessing Covid 19 test kits , personal protective equipment and now vaccines . Of 548 million COVID 19 vaccine doses administered worldwide, only 2 percent which is 11 million have been distributed in Africa yet the continent accounts for 17 percent of the global population , ” said Dr Moeti .
Various forms of discriminations have also affected access to health care services .
“There are also inequalities within countries . Discriminations based on gender , place of residence , income , educational level , age , ethnicity and disability intersect to disadvantage vulnerable populations. Recent data from 17 African countries show , for example , that a person with secondary school education is three times as likely to have access to contraception as someone who has not attended school . Those in the highest economic quintile are five times more likely to deliver their babies in health facilities and have their babies vaccinated with BCG compared to those in the lowest quintile.”
Dr. Moeti further said to overcome the inequalities the National Health Information Systems need to capture stratified data.
“To improve this situation , we need to act on the social and economic determinants of health , by working across sectors to improve living and working conditions and access to education , particularly for the most marginalised groups communication needs to be engaged as partners , through their networks and associations t shape and drive health and development” reads the statement .
According to Dr Moeti, Investment is also needed to accelerate progress towards universal health coverage and protect individuals from failing to access needed care due to financial hardships.
“Investment is also needed to accelerate progress towards Universal Health Coverage to protect individuals form financial hardships in accessing needed care and to improve service coverage .”
She, however encouraged African leaders to work together to address inequalities in their own counties and abroad in the spirit of International Solidarity and also pharmaceutical companies to increase manufacturing capacities to counter for the shortages.
“Specifically on Covid 19 vaccines we strongly encourage phamarceutical companies to expand their manufacturing capacities to overcome current supply shortages. We also encourage wealthy countries to overcome current supply shortages. We also encourage wealthy countries to share their doses , so that the most at risk populations in all countries can be protected , to save lives and speed up the recovery from this global crisis”.
The World Health Day is a global health awareness day celebrated every year on 7 April, under the sponsorship of the World Health Organization (WHO), as well as other related organizations. This years awareness will be running under the theme, ” Building a fairer, healthier world.”